The autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard has been part of the transgender discussion since the late 1980s. It is currently being aused by anti-transgender activists in order to undermine the legitimacy of transgender identities. A new German study proves – again – that the theory has no foundation in reality.
If autogynephilia theory is a completely new concept for you, you might want to read the following short summary of what it is all about. If you already know the theory, you can skip the next part.
A very short introduction to Ray Blanchard's theory about the two types of transgender womenBlanchard's two type theory on transgender women and MTF crossdreamers has its root in the late 19th century idea that gay men and lesbian women are "inverts". According to this way of thinking a gay man has a female sexuality and a lesbian woman has a male sexuality. This is why, the story goes, all gay men are effeminate and all lesbian women are butch.
This isn't true, obviously, but it was a neat and simple to understand model. Transgender women were extremely effeminate gay men and transgender men were extremely masculine lesbian women.
This is the basis of Blanchard's category of "homosexual transsexuals" (HSTS). Trans women who love men are gay men who try to seduce straight men by presenting as women.
The people who came up with this model faced one serious challenge, though. There were transgender women who loved women.
They attempted to solve this problem by focusing on the crossdressing of these "men". So the "transvestites" where straight men who got turned on by dressing up in female clothing – a parallel to a fascination for rubber and leather, if you like. They were therefore put in the same category as other sexual perversions ("paraphilias" in the current lingo).
Blanchard still thinks that both gay and trans people are mentally ill, but trans women who love women (including those he calls "pseudo-bisexual") are doubly so. Unlike the androphilic (man-loving) trans women, they are basically in love with the image of their inner female self, as Blanchard sees it. They are suffering from an "erotic target location error". They are "auto-gyne-philiacs" (broken Greek for "self-woman-love").
This means that Blanchard is expanding upon the traditional "transvestic fetishism" model: It is not the clothing that is the trigger anymore, but the idea of being or becoming a woman.
As you can see, the model rests on one very important premise: What causes the transgender identities in the two categories (HSTS vs autogynephiles) has to be completely different. These women will have to have nothing in common beyond the desire to live as women.
If there is overlap between the two, the model's explanatory power is lost. The gender identity of man-loving (androphilic) trans women can no longer be reduced to an effect of their sexual orientation. The gender identity of woman-loving (gynephilic) trans cannot be caused by a "erotic target location error". Instead you will have to identify another factor or factors that explain their gender variance.
The German study of "autogynephiliacs" and "HSTS"The German researchers – Jelena S. Laube, Matthias K Auer, Sarah Biedermann, Johanna Schröder, Timo O. Nieder, Peer Briken, Johannes Fuss and Thomas Hildebrandt – have been taking Blanchard's theory very seriously.
In their paper "Sexual Behavior, Desire, and Psychosexual Experience in Gynephilic and Androphilic Trans Women: A Cross-Sectional Multicenter Study" (Journal of Sexual Medicine) they make use of new data provided by 189 gender dysphoric transgender women recruited at four transgender health care centers in Germany.